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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 557

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As the title suggests, the novel is narrated in the first person; the narrator says her name is Cadence Sinclair Eastman, the eighteen-year-old protagonist. The "liars" of the title are introduced clearly at the beginning of chapter four, when Cadence says "Gat, Mirren, Johnny, and me" referring to her cousins (Mirren and Johnny) and friend (Gat), who used to spend time together at her family's summer home on "a private island off the coast of Massachusetts."

The novel begins with Cadence in a state of transition. She mentions that many things have changed since "the accident," and, as she continues to flesh out the story, there is a sense that she will begin to explain the accident and the situations that lead to it in detail. She briefly describes her family, who come from a long line of wealthy Democrats, but suggests the money has run out and financial problems are now causing stress.

She also mentions that, the same summer of the accident (but before it occurred), her father announced he was leaving her mother for another woman, and was gone two days later. This sets up one major character (her father) who looms large, but who is, at least at the story's outset, absent from the current action. Cadence also describes her mother's angry response: destroying many of the objects her husband had bought. Cadence's claim that her father "pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest" right before he left is meant to be metaphorical but also suggests Cadence is an unreliable and overly dramatic narrator.

Cadence describes the other three liars, her summer compatriots, in the following ways when she describes them all at age eight:

Johnny, he is bounce, effort, and snark. Back then he would hang our Barbies by the necks or shoot us with guns made of Lego.

Mirren, she is sugar, curiosity, and rain. Back then she spent long afternoons with Taft and the twins, splashing at the big beach, while I drew pictures on graph paper and read in the hammock on the Clairmont house porch.

Then Gat came to spend the summers with us.

Gat is the nephew of Ed, a man whom Cadence's Aunt Carrie starts dating after her husband leaves her. "Gat, Johnny, Mirren, and Cadence," she says. "That was the beginning of us."

The next chapter jumps forward a few years and begins with summer fourteen, the summer before the accident, and describes how Gat and Cadence become closer after Gat tells Cadence he thinks she is pretty. The following summer, summer fifteen, Cadence describes how, looking at Gat one day, she realizes she is in love with him. It seems she thinks of Gat as being an integral part of her summers on the island, but also somewhat separate from her blood family, and thereby a sort of respite from the family troubles that plague her. But things become complicated when she learns that Gat has a girlfriend back home in New York.

Cadence's description of the events before the accident and the way she describes her feelings portray her as an adolescent with intense emotions and possibly obsessive thoughts. This formative friendship and first love is clearly a significant aspect of the novel's plot, and it sets up various character trajectories and loyalties as the events of the summer unfold.